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Ford restructure focuses on CVs, big data

Big wheel: Jim Farley at the 2018 Detroit show, then president of global markets and a key figure in bringing the Aussie-designed Ford Ranger to the US – where in the first quarter of this year it sold 21,000 units.

Commercial vehicles, connectivity top priorities in big restructure at Ford Motor Co

22 Apr 2020

COMMERCIAL vehicles and connectivity are identified as top priorities for the Ford Motor Company as it executes a series of senior leadership and organisational changes to its global automotive operations amid the current coronavirus pandemic and uncertain economic conditions ahead.


This bodes well for the Australian-based Asia-Pacific Product Development Centre, which is the international design and engineering centre for the all-important Ranger mid-size pick-up that entered the North American market early last year and which is now central to a newly created dedicated commercial vehicle (CV) business for the United States and Canada.


This focus on commercial vehicles is designed to turn Ford’s leadership in the segment – underpinned by America’s best-selling vehicle, the F-Series, the number-one van, Transit, and the fast-growing Ranger, which racked up 21,000 units in the first quarter of this year – into a “dedicated growth business” and is one of the core tenets of a “10-week deep-dive” led by chief operating officer Jim Farley aimed at sharpening the Blue Oval brand’s focus in a number of key areas.


As well as CVs, these are identified as: product and launch execution; fully leveraging smart, connected vehicles and big data; and improving quality and lowering costs.


“Under Jim Farley’s leadership, we are empowering a talented and diverse group of leaders – from inside and outside the company – to continue to drive our transformation into a higher-growth, higher-margin business,” said Ford Motor Co chief executive Jim Hackett.


Mr Farley added that the company was moving “with a renewed sense of urgency to improve the fitness of the business and improve our launches, while at the same time modernising Ford in a way that plays to our strengths”.


“That means putting the right team of global leaders in place, streamlining the way we work, embracing the power of connectivity, data and AI, and turning our leadership in commercial vehicles into a dedicated growth business,” he said.


Reporting directly to Mr Farley and taking on an expanded role that includes the new CV business unit is Kumar Galhotra, who was previously president of North America but now presides over a newly created Americas and International Markets Group.


Reporting to him is Lisa Drake, who continues as vice-president of global purchasing but is also now COO for North America, charged with leading the push – “through cash conservation and profit actions” – to return Ford’s business in the region back to a 10 per cent EBIT margin.


The CV operation will be driven in large part by general manager Ted Cannis, a three-decade Ford veteran who for the past two-and-a-half years has served as global director of electrification – an indication, if ever we saw one, of the car-maker’s intention to build a cache of battery-electric variants across its core-strength commercial model lines.


Mr Cannis will work closely with Ford of Europe’s general manager of commercial vehicles, Hans Schep, who oversees development of the Transit, while Mark Ovenden remains the prime overseer of the Australian operations in his continuing role as president of the International Markets Group, which covers almost 100 regions including Australasia, ASEAN, Africa, India, Mexico, the Middle East and South Korea.


Mr Ovenden now reports to Lyle Watters, who takes on an expanded role as president of South America and International Markets Group (reporting to Mr Galhotra). Mr Watters was previously chief financial officer and vice-president of finance and strategic planning for Ford of Europe.


On the connected-car capability front, Ford has hired a retired colonel from the Israeli Military Intelligence Corps, Gil Gur Arie, as its chief of global data insight and analytics, reporting to Mr Farley and bringing “vast and unique experience to Ford in big data and AI, information technology, digital-age human-machine aspects and multi-domain large scale analytics”.


The company said Mr Gur Arie will “lead the Ford team through the digital revolution and develop Ford’s big-data and AI strategy in the coming years”.


Another outsider brought in to bolster Ford’s “connectivity product portfolio strategy” is Alex Purdy, director of business operations (digital experience and connectivity) who was previously director of Deere Labs at agricultural equipment giant John Deere.


Mr Purdy reports to Stuart Taylor, a highly experienced electrical and electronics systems engineer at Ford who has also worked for other OEMs such as Aston Martin, Daewoo and Land Rover.


Mr Taylor is now executive director of the newly created Enterprise Connectivity division, charged with developing and implementing “a suite of connectivity solutions” that will support all areas of Ford’s business.


He reports to chief product development and purchasing officer Hau Thai-Tang, as does Burt Jordan, who has become vice-president of global purchasing operations after rising through the ranks at Ford over more than two decades.


Along the way he was in charge of overall purchasing activities in Australia in the early 2000s, when serving as purchasing director for Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa.


“The creation of the Enterprise Connectivity organisation provides seamless end-to-end ownership for connectivity between the vehicle, consumer and infrastructure within Ford,” Mr Thai-Tang said.


“Establishing this new organisation, along with these appointments, will help us accelerate the delivery of human-centred, connected experiences for our customers and realise our vision of delivering intelligent vehicles in an increasingly connected world.”

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